Author: Annette Curtis Klause
First Published: 1991
I picked this up in a publisher’s clearance store, very cheap, and expected that it would be a swift read – being a slim volume. What I didn’t expect was a book with deeply drawn characters that proved enthralling and poetically poignant.
Zoë is a young teen for whom life has become unbearably hard. Her mother is slowly slipping away due to cancer, her father seems distant, wrapped in his own grief, and her best friend, Lorraine, is being forced to move away with her father and step-mother.
Then she meets a teenage boy, Simon, and an odd bond forms; but Simon is no ordinary boy. Born in the seventeenth century, Simon was turned into a vampire by his older brother Christopher – himself trapped forever as a young child, and still carrying a child’s cruel nature. Having discovered that Christopher had murdered their mother Simon has hunted his young-looking sibling through the centuries.
The interplay between the world Zoë discovers in the night juxtaposes marvelously against the deep sadness she feels in her ordinary life. Of course, given the subject matter this is not, by any stretch, a happy book though the ending carries a message of strength through adversity.
One nice thing about the book is the lore. We have standard vampiric fare, vampires must be invited in, they burn in the sun, a stake kills them, the crucifix repels them, they can turn into mist or bat and they cannot cross running water. Yet some of the little explanations as to why this happens are marvelous.
For running water we are told: ‘“Water rejects the dead. A corpse floats to the surface no matter how long it takes.”…
‘“I am at odds with nature,” he continued, “And the natural world tries to remind me of this. The sun burns me; and when I cross running water, I can feel it trying to heave me off the face of the earth…’
When it comes to the stake through the heart we are told they must be: “Not just injured, impaled. It holds the unnatural body long enough for the soul to escape. The soul that’s been trapped and kept in torment. Then there can be true death.”
It would have been easy for Klause to concentrate on the tragedy, using the standard stereotypes and not bothered with such little explanations. These add so much to the book for the genre fan.
I expected a quick, easy read – I got an excellent tragedy of both very human and supernatural proportions. 7.5 out of 10.